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Broadband Adoption and Not Availability is Key Challenge, Says One Economy

WASHINGTON, July 31 – Although broadband is largely available in low-income communities in the United States, many of the poor do not see a reason to subscribe, the vice president of the non-profit One Economy Corporation said Wednesday.

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By William G. Korver, Reporter, BroadbandCensus.com

WASHINGTON, July 31 – Although broadband is largely available in low-income communities in the United States, many of the poor do not see a reason to subscribe, the vice president of the non-profit One Economy Corporation said Wednesday.

Speaking at a luncheon on Capitol Hill, One Economy Vice President for External Affairs Alec Ross said that the need to improve broadband adoption rates was suggested by a study released this month by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

For the first time in the history of telecom, adoption rates among the poor fell, said Ross. The Pew study reported that among adults living in households with annual incomes of less than $20,000 annually, the percentage dropped from 28 percent in March 2007 to 25 percent in April/May 2008.

The decline in adoption is likely a result of the declining economy and a culture that causes many to worry about privacy and identity issues online, Ross said.

Ross spoke at a luncheon, “Broadband in Low-income Communities: From Access to Adoption,” co-hosted by One Economy and the Alliance for Public Technology, another non-profit group.

Ross also said that 40 percent of those interviewed by Pew in a telephone survey said that they lacked the interest to purchase broadband, or high-speed internet access, or believed it to be a waste of money.

When asked why they don’t use the Internet, 33 percent of respondants said they were not interested, 12 percent said they didn’t have access, 9 percent said it was too difficult or frustrated, and 7 percent said it was too expensive, according to the Pew study.

Among users of dial-up services that don’t have broadband, price was the most salient variable, according to the Pew study.

Asked “what would it take to get you to switch to broadband,” 35 percent of these dial-up users said that price would have to come down, 19 percent said that nothing would convince them to get broadband, and 14 percent said that broadband would need to become available where they lived, said Pew.

Joy Howell, director of the alliance’s “Broadband Changed My Life” campaign said that the percentage of African Americans with broadband was at 43 percent in April 2008, versus 40 percent in March 2007.

Ross claimed that this “incredibly disturbing data” came during a time of falling broadband prices and accelerated internet speeds. The Pew report said that the price of broadband had decreased by four percent over the last two-and-a-half years, from $36 a month in December 2005 to $34.50 in April 2008.

Ross said that governmental policies to improve broadband adoption rates must be data-driven, not based on guesses. Howell suggested expanding a Massachusetts broadband program.

Austin Bonner, director of communications for One Economy, said the content on One Economy’s public internet channel had helped to change the minds of those who believe the Internet “is a waste of time” or fear going online.

Bonner and Ross said that the public internet channel can accomplish these goals because of its easy-to-read format and availability in multiple languages.

Ross also expressed caution concerning educational programs about broadband. Lawmakers and advocates need to “have some faith in people.” He decried the inherent “paternalism” of many broadband education programs.

Ross said that more Americans need to be told of the benefits broadband will provide to them, particularly in education and the environment.

Although Ross said that the U.S. had done a “pretty good job” in making broadband available to more than 90 percnet of the country, he blasted the Bush administration as “completely [missing in action]” on broadband.

Kenneth Peres, president of the Alliance for Public Technology and research economist for the Communications Workers of America, declared that it was “incredible” that the U.S. was alone among the largest 15 countries in not having a national broadband policy, especially after the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development had ranked the U.S. at 15th in global broadband penetration.

Just as the United States involved the federal, state, and local governments in building canals, railroads, electricity, and highways, the federal government must assist state and local governments and the private sector in deploying broadband and developing its infrastructure, he said.

Peres reminded the audience that over 85 percent of Japanese households have access to high-speed fiber. He did not mention that Japan ranks two slots behind the U.S. in the December 2007 OECD rankings.

A representative of Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., said that Towns believes broadband is “essential” and is proud of his work in promoting a health information technology bill. Towns also strongly supports incentives for high speed networks, his representative said.

Howell said more than 1.2 million jobs should be created by the expansion of broadband, one of the fastest growing industries in America.

APT currently receives funding from AT&T, AT&T California, the United States Telecom Association and Verizon, according to its web site. The organization is managed by the consulting firm Issue Dynamics Inc. (now renamed as Amplify Public Affairs), according to the APT web site.

Among the telecommunications companies that support One Economy include AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon, according to the One Economy web site.

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Education

Metaverse Can Serve as a Supplement, Not Replacement, For Educators: Experts

The virtual world where avatars can meet as if they were in real life can be a companion for education.

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Screenshot of the Brookings event Tuesday

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 – Experts said at a Brookings Institution event said Tuesday that while the “metaverse” can go a long way toward improving education for some students, it should serve as a supplement to those educational goals.

The metaverse refers to a platform of 3D virtual worlds where avatars, or virtual characters, meet as if they were in the real world. The concept has been toyed with by Facebook parent Meta and is being used as a test for the educational space.

“The metaverse is a world that is accessible to students and teachers across the globe that allows shared interactions without boundaries in a respectful optimistic way,” Simran Mulchandani, founder of education app Project Rangeet, said at Tuesday’s event.

Panelists stated that as the metaverse and education meet, researchers, educators, policymakers and digital designers should take the lead, so tech platforms do not dictate educational opportunities.

“We have to build classrooms first, not tech first,” said Mulchandani.

Rebecca Kantar, the head of education at Roblox – a video game platform that allows players to program games – added that as the metaverse is still emerging and being constructed, “we can be humble in our attempt to find the highest and best way to bring the metaverse” into the classroom for the best education for the future.

Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT and chief open education officer for online learning platform edX, stated the technology of the metaverse has the potential to make “quality and deep education accessible to everybody everywhere.”

Not a replacement for real social experiences

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, senior fellow of the global economy and development at the Center for Universal Education, said that while the metaverse brings potential to improve learning, it is not a complete replacement for the social experience a student has in the classroom.

“The metaverse can’t substitute for social interaction. It can supplement.”

Mulchandani noted the technology of the metaverse cannot replace the teacher, but rather can serve to solve challenges in the classroom.

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Digital Inclusion

FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel Emphasizes 100 Percent Broadband Adoption

‘It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,’ said the chairwoman.

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Photo of Kelley Dunne, CEO of AmeriCrew, leading panel on workforce issues at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit by Drew Clark

PARK CITY, Utah, June 28, 2022 – The Federal Communications Commission is making progress towards bringing “affordable, reliable, high-speed broadband to 100 percent of the country,” Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said at the Rural Wireless Infrastructure Summit here on Tuesday.

Rosenworcel pointed to the $65 billion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act now being deployed across the country, with a particular focus on unconnected rural and tribal areas.

Although the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration will take the lead with these funds, the FCC’s new broadband coverage maps will be important in implementing state digital equity plans.

In her remarks, Rosenworcel also discussed how the upcoming 2.5 GigaHertz spectrum auction will involve licensing spectrum primarily to rural areas.

At the July FCC open meeting, said Rosenworcel, the agency is scheduled to establish a new program to help enhance wireless competition. It is called the Enhanced Competition Incentive Program.

The program aims to build incentives for existing carriers to build opportunities for smaller carriers and tribal nations through leasing or partitioning spectrum. Existing carriers will be rewarded with longer license terms, extensions on build-out obligations, and more flexibility in construction requirements.

“It’s about making sure wireless connections are available in 100 percent of rural America,” she said.

She also indicated her commitment to work with Congress to fund the FCC’s “rip and replace” program to reimburse many rural operators’ transitions from Chinese-manufactured telecommunications equipment. She also touted the role that open radio access networks can plan in more secure telecommunications infrastructure.

In other news at the conference, FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr addressed the role of funding broadband operations in rural America, the challenges of workforce training, and ensuring that rural carriers have access to high-cost universal service support.

In a session moderated by AmeriCrew CEO Kelley Dunne, panelists from the U.S. Labor Department, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and Texas A&M Extension Education Services addressed the need to offer a vocational career path for individuals for whom a four-year degree may not be the right choice. AmeriCrew helps U.S. military veterans obtain careers in building fiber, wireless and electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

Broadband Breakfast Editor and Publisher Drew Clark contributed to this report.

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Broadband's Impact

Broadband Speeds Have Significant Impact on Economy, Research Director Says

From 2010 to 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove .04 percent increase in GDP, the study found.

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Photo of Alan Davidson of the NTIA, Caroline Kitchens of Shopify, Raul Katz of Columbia University (left to right)

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2022 – Broadband and higher speeds have made significant contributions to economic growth over the last decade, according to a study discussed at a Network On conference Tuesday.

Raul Katz, director of business strategy research at Columbia University, conducted his research to determine where the United States economy would be if broadband had not evolved since 2010. He developed four models to explain the economic contribution of broadband, and all found support to suggest that broadband development has contributed to substantial economic growth.

The long-run economic growth model showed that between 2010 and 2020, a 10.9 percent growth in broadband penetration drove a .04 percent increase in gross domestic product – the measure of the value of goods and services produced in the nation. States with higher speed broadband had an economic impact of an additional 11.5 percent.

“States with higher speeds of broadband have a higher economic effect,” said Katz. “Not only is there penetration as a driver, but there’s also… return to speed. At faster speeds, the economy tends to be more efficient.”

The study found that if broadband adoption and speed had remained unchanged since 2010, the 2020 GDP would have been 6.27 percent lower, said Katz.

Caroline Kitchens, a representative for ecommerce platform Shopify, said Tuesday that there’s been great growth in the ecommerce business, which relies entirely on a broadband connection. “Worldwide, Shopify merchants create 3.5 million jobs and have an economic impact of more than $307 billion. It goes without saying that none of this is possible without broadband access.”

“We have really seen firsthand how broadband access promotes entrepreneurship,” said Kitchens, indicating that this has promoted a growing economy in over 100 countries.

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